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50 Most Tense Undercover Movie Moments

La Femme Nikita (1990)

The Moment: Nikita’s final test before becoming a fully-fledged sleeper agent, in which she is charged with assassinating a foreign diplomat in a busy restaurant. Nail-biting stuff.

Look Away When: Nikita’s dinner date starts pratting around with the tablecloth. He’s got no idea what’s coming…

The Godfather Part 2 (1974)

The Moment: Fredo’s undercover dealings eventually come back to haunt him, with his betrayal of the family finally leading to an abortive assassination attempt on Michael.

Look Away When: The hideously tense exchange between the two brothers is brought to its inevitable conclusion, with Michael sealing Fredo’s fate with a kiss.

Jamaica Inn (1939)

The Moment: It appears as though faux-smuggler Traherne (actually an undercover lawman) is going to be strung up, only for salvation to arrive in the form of the courageous Mary.

Look Away When:
The noose goes around Traherne’s neck… it doesn’t seem like there’s an obvious way out until the heroine arrives.

Carlitos Way (1993)

The Moment: Carlito meets with Lalin, who seems particularly keen to get our hero to vocally accept a return to the world of organized crime…

Look Away When:
Carlito calls his opposite number on his wire-wearing. You could cut the tension with a knife.

The Verdict (1982)

The Moment: Frank discovers that Laura, the object of his affections, has been a plant all along, designed to extract information from him concerning the case he’s working on.

Look Away When: Frank’s temper eventually snaps, and he lashes out at the woman who has so betrayed him.

The French Connection (1971)

The Moment: Having made Popeye Doyle, Nicoli attempts to assassinate the undercover cop, leading to the film’s famous car chase through the streets of Brooklyn.

Look Away When:
It’s nerve-shredding stuff from the moment the car chase begins.

Animal Kingdom (2010)

The Moment: J returns to his family home, having declined the opportunity to testify against them. However, he still isn’t playing with an entirely straight bat…

Look Away When:
Pope comes into J’s room to have a little chat with him. Neither he nor the audience are expecting the bullet in the head he receives for his troubles.

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

The Moment: “Fred”, otherwise known as Bob Arctor, suffers a total breakdown, as his double-identity gradually takes its toll. Concerned, Hank phones Donna and instructs her to take Arctor to the New Path corporation.

Look Away When: Hank removes his scramble suit, revealing himself to be a disguised Donna. Your head will likely have exploded by this point.

Cruising (1980)

The Moment: Al Pacino’s cop is looking for a serial killer targeting homosexual males. In order to catch him, he disguises himself as a homosexual male. But how far will he go to preserve his identity?

Look Away When: Pacino takes to the dancefloor to fit in at a gay bar. The tension comes from wondering whether he’s really going to bust a move. Sadly for everyone, he does.

Cell 211 (2009)

The Moment: New prison guard Juan is discovered injured in an unoccupied cell and brought before the resident badass. Thinking on his feet, he averts disaster by passing himself off as an inmate…

Look Away When: Juan is forced to strip naked before the baying inmates. Will he be able to withstand the pressure?

George Wales
George is GR's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it.